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The name of Walter Veith may be unknown to many Spectrum readers but according to Veith’s own website it is well known to thousands of people around the globe. Veith is a “world renowned scientist, author, and lecturer,” WalterVeith.org reports. He is “deeply interested in the ecological deterioration of our planet” and speaks “to standing-room-only crowds around the world on his findings in archaeology, history, Bible prophecy, secret societies, and political intrigue.” What precisely qualifies Veith as a “world renowned scientist” and author is difficult to say from the four published titles that appear under his name on Amazon.com. His bestselling work Amazon indicates is a self-published 2002 tome of over 500 pages entitled Truth Matters: Escaping the Labyrinth of Error, which at last check had not received a single customer review. One of the most comprehensive online archives of peer-reviewed journal articles, JSTOR, does not show a single peer-reviewed article—scientific or otherwise—published in Veith’s name. But Veith’s primary mode of communication is not the printed but rather the spoken word. For anyone desiring to enter the dark fantasy world of Walter Veith—a universe that seamlessly blends nutritional advice and traditional Adventist apocalyptic beliefs with Veith’s own idiosyncratic, surreal, and sinister conspiracy theories—the portal is any computer with an internet connection.
Veith is a South African Seventh-day Adventist who was born in 1949 and was at one time chair of zoology at the University of the Western Cape. He was also at one time by his own telling a committed atheist who underwent a dramatic conversion. He now leads an independent evangelistic and itinerate speaking ministry based out of British Columbia entitled “Amazing Discoveries.” A Google Videos search for “Walter Veith” returns nearly 6,000 films. Veith’s most watched video of all time is “Saddam Hussein Dead Since 1999,” which has had nearly a quarter of a million views since it was posted on Youtube in June 2007. (By comparison, the most watched YouTube video of Ted Wilson, the first 10 minutes of his inaugural sermon as GC president in Atlanta, has had fewer than 20,000 views since it was posted by AYA Ministries in July 2010.)
“Saddam Hussein Dead Since 1999” is a ten-minute excerpt from a nearly two-hour lecture, “A New World Order,” originally filmed in 2004, which in turn is a single episode from a 36-part DVD lecture series entitled Total Onslaught that Veith sells on his website for $260, copies available in English, Spanish, and Russian.
In the lecture, the zoologist turned religious entrepreneur makes heavy use of crude but effective Powerpoint images, which he flashes at his audience with breathtaking speed as he unfolds the diabolical forces at work behind the daily news headlines (or the headlines of the parched newspapers he has kept on file dating back to the 1980s as the case may be). The “total onslaught” of demonic spirits acting through their human minions—virtually all of the world’s political and religious leaders—is in fact not so much behind these news clippings as it is transparently visible on their surface, self-evidently clear for those who have the secret knowledge necessary to decode the signs of the times. Veith does not analyze texts or images but rather dispatches them in tones of great authority and with an air of professorial condescension toward the somewhat bewildered looking people we catch occasional glimpses of in his audience.
Queue image of upside down European identity card. “What do you see?,” Veith demands, scrolling a cursor over what to this uninitiated viewer’s eyes is nothing more than an abstract pattern. The question is rhetorical, however, with Veith leaving no time for guesses. “You see the goat of Mendes,” he proclaims. “The horns are slightly modified to give another symbolism of the seat of the earth, but the inner facial features of the goat are very clearly discernible.” Veith then highlights another nebulous cluster of shapes on the card. “What these mean over here,” he says with a hint of deviousness, “I would rather not say.” The scales at last fall from one’s eyes. The shapes are surely phallic. How could anyone think otherwise? Or how could one think otherwise after being exposed to Veith’s not so subtle insinuation? Such is the power of suggestion.
But there is no time to linger on the goat of Mendes or to ponder why the European Union would think it vital to place such satanic symbolism on the otherwise numbingly dull documents of modern state bureaucracy. Veith is already on to the next slide, an image of former German Chancellor Schröder shaking hands in a business-like way with an unidentified man on an unidentified occasion at an unidentified date (he is in fact Helmut Kohl). “That is a Masonic handshake,” Veith declares, “signifying the new Mason is taking over where the old Mason is leaving.” It seems the diabolical secret of Masonic handshakes when compared with others is that they are actually just ordinary handshakes—which would, of course, be the most cunning disguise of all.
Veith quickly moves on to a set of images showing Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin pointing with their index fingers toward other political leaders as they pose for photographs. This is also a Masonic gesture Veith informs his audience, something he refers to as “fingering.” “They are all showing that they are part of the same system.” Next slide. Veith has moved from the alleged goat of Mendes to Schröder’s alleged Masonic handshake to Clinton’s and Putin’s Masonic “fingering” to Russia’s adoption of the symbol of the double-headed eagle (the mark of its satanic allegiance to Freemasonry) in the span of less than one minute. His lecture has just begun. He will maintain this pace for the next hour and a half.
Veith, it goes without saying, is trading in a world of fantasy and myth that has considerably less logic than a Dan Brown novel and a great deal more creepiness. There is, however, something mesmeric in his performance. If nothing else, he knows how to play the chords of apocalyptic menace with a campy but bravura showmanship. And he seems to know exactly what he is doing. Veith repeatedly states in his performances that he is not telling his listeners what to believe but is simply presenting them with the “facts” so that they can make informed judgments for themselves. But these claims are also simply part of the show. Veith is by every indication a religious confidence man who has carved out his own niche market by convincing sadly credulous listeners to suspend their critical judgment just long enough to become convinced that what he is saying is not only entirely plausible but is in fact the very height of reason.
Who was responsible for plotting the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? George W. Bush and the CIA. What made the Twin Towers fall? They were brought down not by the airplanes but by explosives previously planted by the CIA in the buildings. What was the actual fate of Saddam Hussein? He died in 1999—it was his body double that was hung in 2003. What is the truth behind Islam? It is a secret creation of the Roman Catholic Church, invented by the Vatican and planted in the Middle East to stamp out the last remnants of non-Catholic “true” Christianity. “They are only playing the game of Hegelian idealism, thesis and antithesis,” Veith explains with pseudo-philosophical profundity, “but behind the scenes they all belong to the same club.”
The “club”—a term Veith uses often in his lectures—is interchangeably the Freemasons and the Catholic papacy. The extent of the Catholic Church’s diabolical control of world events through the tireless plotting of its puppets, the secret societies, is truly astounding. The ranks of the Illuminati, secretly and tirelessly working in consort across the ages toward the goal of one world government controlled by Rome, includes: Karl Marx, Cecil Rhodes, Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, J. Edgar Hoover, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Shimon Peres, Yassir Arafat, both George Bushes, Ted Kennedy, Alan Greenspan (part of the Illuminati’s “Committee of 300”), Hilary Clinton (a “6th Grand Dame,” according to Veith), Jimmy Carter, Saddam Hussein, Richard Holbrooke (a “thirty-three degree Freemason”), Al Gore, Tony Blair, and Nelson Mandela.
Veith does not discuss his sources for these fantastical claims. He simply declares at one point in this role call of the Illuminati’s greatest hits that the information can be found “on a website” (the address is included at the bottom of one of his slides but it is in a font too small to make out from the video).
The fact that Veith has been able to gain a hearing peddling in such ideas might be baffling to many. It is, though, not so difficult to grasp. To become a fellow traveler with Veith is to become the partaker of a profound secret wisdom, which the rest of the world is either too ignorant or too wicked to comprehend. But those who will just journey with him for these “amazing” 36 DVDs will discover at the end of the journey that it is not the rich, the powerful, or the well-educated, but rather they along with Veith who are the real Chosen Ones—the elect few who through their initiation into secret knowledge of end-time events will somehow escape this veil of corruption while the rest of the world burns. The Gospel according to Walter is nothing other than a 21st century Gnostic revivalism.
The great irony is that Veith himself is well educated and—at least judging from the slick packaging and merchandising of hundreds of his lectures in multiple languages—doing well from the power he exercises in the Adventist circles in which he operates. There is a Facebook page devoted to Veith that includes nearly 4,000 fans, the majority seemingly young adults of the Seventh-day Adventist church. His acolytes frequent the Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC) annual conferences. Herein lies an important fact. Veith’s audiences are already well primed to hear his message of diabolical Catholic conspiracy. His incredible claims about the schemes of the Freemasons and the political conspiracies behind every major world event go without question by many who attend his talks because they are merely improvisational flourishes on a well-established theme that for most Adventists is beyond question or revision.
Many Adventists are taught to think like Veith from an early age. And Adventist young people are highly vulnerable to Veith’s conspiracy theories because it is in fact official church teaching that the correct way to read Biblical apocalyptic literature is to scour its pages for detailed and esoteric knowledge of how final events will unfold—and to then turn to the latest news headlines for confirming evidence of the “signs of the times,” the understanding of which might also confirm one’s election as part of God’s true “remnant.”
Many Adventists also give Veith a free pass in his handling of historical evidence because they are pleased by what he has to tell them about the evidences of science. In addition to his lectures on the conspiracies of the Illuminati and the Catholic Church, Veith is a popular speaker on some Adventist circuits as an apologist for young earth creationism. Any Adventist theologian or scientist publicly expressing views on creation similar to rigorous and sober evangelical scholars like John Stott, Alister McGrath, John Walton, and Nancey Murphy today stands to be denounced as an “infidel” Adventist and “Seventh-day Darwinian” by high-ranking church officials. Meanwhile, any and every incredible claim about the creation is now apparently deemed theologically acceptable by church leaders (judging from their conspicuous silence when confronted by figures like Veith) provided only that it is a fundamentalist one.
On May 19 and 20, 2011, Veith delivered two lectures at La Sierra University at the invitation of a student group, the “Sci-Fai” Club (formed by student Louie Bishop to agitate for strictly fundamentalist readings of Genesis and “scientific” creationism in the classroom). Veith’s visit was reported as a significant event by one fundamentalist lay Adventist website, EducateTruth.com. Amid fulsome praise for Veith’s ideas, a few commenters on the site raised concerns about Veith’s conspiracy theories. Site operator Shane Hilde quickly intervened to steer the conversation away from these questions. “Veith lectures on many topics, a lot of which are considered controversial,” Hilde wrote, “however, let’s only focus on his lectures regarding science and creation. This forum is not intended to be grounds for discussing the plethora of topics he has covered.”
Yet Veith’s handling of the evidences of history is directly relevant to his credibility as a creationist claiming to speak with authority and integrity about the evidences of natural science. And Veith’s reasoning is not of a radically different kind when he is dealing with scientific problems. Whether discussing evolution or the Illuminati, he is blithely unconcerned with the actual weight of the evidence. His interest is in data mining for anomalous or puzzling facts that can be amplified in a sensational way to confirm for his followers what they think they already know. In answer to a question from an audience member at La Sierra about his views on “amalgamation,” Veith made clear that his conspiracy theories and his “scientific” creationism are in fact deeply intertwined.
“Do you think the antideluvian world with its tremendous brain capacity was not as advanced as we are?” Veith asked (without waiting for any replies). After suggesting that the myth of the lost city of Atlantis is evidence for a hyper-advanced pre-flood civilization fully capable of conducting genetics experiments to blend human and animal DNA, Veith continued (from 6:40 here):
There are some that say that this great race to go to the moon and to discover what is on the moon and on the other side is perhaps a race to pick up some of the lost technology of the antideluvians, because if we could get there they surely got there. Maybe there’s something there. And it’s fascinating to me that in the space race it’s only the esoterics [sic] that take part. You have to be a high-ranking Freemason or a high-ranking Mormon in order to go to space. So there are all kinds of circumstantial evidences. Yes, I believe there was amalgamation and I believe that God destroyed that amalgamation and eventually he will destroy it again.
The harm done to Adventism’s name by such unscrupulous conspiracy evangelism and “scientific” creationism might tempt one to offer an elaborate counter-conspiracy theory (“thesis and antithesis”) to explain Veith himself. What better way for the secret societies to disorient Adventists and discredit the Adventist church, after all, than to dispatch someone like Veith expounding in Adventism’s name about how Nelson Mandela and Joseph Stalin are spiritual brothers in the same “club” controlled by Rome? Or how the Freemasons working at the bidding of Rome may well have journeyed to the moon in the 1960s in search of the lost technology of the antideluvians, since the pre-flood civilization of the days of Noah “surely got there” first? Is it really just a coincidence that “Veith” is the Germanized name for Vitus, who was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the Roman Catholic Church and who also happens to be the patron saint of actors?
But of course the only sane answer to this question is, yes, it really is just a coincidence. To understand Walter Veith requires no conspiracy theory. What it does require is deeper understanding of fundamentalist expressions of Adventist apocalyptic identity nearly two centuries after their original formulation. It also requires, it seems to this observer, some theological discernment of the meaning of Christ’s words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”